For two months he has saved every penny and dollar, every bit of allowance and report card money, counting it all weekly and sometimes daily, all for the Lego train set that is due to arrive upon our doorstep sometime today. My son is proud. I’m proud of him. It takes a lot of work and discipline to save that much when you’re nine years old, to say No and No again to the pack of baseball cards or the long aisles of toys down at the Target. To say instead, This is what I want, and even if I can’t have it today, I’ll have it eventually.
It got easier as it went. Saving so much money, I mean. When you’re first starting out, all you see is how little you have and how much you need. You think you’re never going to get there. The road is too long, the temptations too great. That’s when most give in. That’s when I give in. And my son nearly did, but then twenty dollars turned into fifty, and that became seventy-five, and then a hundred and fifty, and now all that’s left is to stare out the window to a dull February day and wait for the sound of the UPS truck.
It’s been a great lesson, really. Saving up, sacrificing immediate gratification for something better down the line, learning the value of hard work and determination. Kids need a lot of that nowadays, I think. Adults too, for that matter. But now comes another great lesson, and in many ways a much more difficult one to digest and endure.
Now comes the wait.
So he sits in the recliner with the dog (who knows something important is happening but isn’t sure what, and so just waits with her ears back and her nose to the air) and rocks because he’s too anxious to hold still. Every sound of an approaching engine is greeted with a sudden jerk of his head, body flexed, chest puffed, waiting to charge the door like a sprinter out of the blocks.
So far, there have been four trucks, three cars, and a woman on a horse. No UPS truck.
It’s not coming, he says.
Yes it is, I say.
Well then, where’s it at? he asks.
Out for delivery.
How do you know?
Because that’s what the tracking says.
But what if he wrecks before he delivers it? And what if my train goes flying out of the truck because it’s rolled over five times and some other kid picks it up and takes it home and doesn’t help the driver at all, and the driver just sits there and bleeds to death? What then?
I don’t have an answer to that, other than to think my son may make a good novelist one day.
Just hang on, I tell him. Just wait.
And then he says the two words that sum up so much of what it means to live in this world, to want and dream and strive and hope—
Waiting sucks, he says.
It does, I tell him, and then I tell him that “sucks” really isn’t the kind of word he’s supposed to be saying, especially with his mother right in the next room. But since he referenced it with regard to waiting, I let it slide. Because he’s right, you know. Waiting really does suck.
We spend so much of life doing that. We wait to grow up, wait to graduate, wait to fall in love and graduate from college, wait for a good job and to have kids and to retire. Sometimes, we even wait to die. I’ve read the normal person will spend fully ten years of their lives waiting in some sort of line, whether it’s the post office or the grocery store or the bank.
With all that time spent waiting, you’d think we would get pretty good at it. But we aren’t. Waiting hurts. Waiting reminds us too often of the thing we want and how miserable we are without it, whether it’s something to have or someone to love. It convinces us we’re somehow less without it. We ache and we pine and we pout. And it doesn’t have to be something big, either. Sometimes, it can be something as insignificant in the big picture as a Lego train. But that’s the thing. I don’t think most of us really want a lot in life, we just want a little more than what we have.
So I’ll just sit here for a while with my son and stare out the window with him. We’ll talk while we wait. We’ll laugh and giggle. We’ll discuss the deeper things of Lego creation and growing up. Because that’s the thing, too—waiting might indeed suck, but it sucks a lot less when you have someone else there, waiting with you.